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Bigger picture must come into focus

March 18, 2012
Weirton Daily Times

Weirton Madonna boys basketball coach George Vargo blistered the officiating crew after a 70-46 loss to Charleston Catholic in the West Virginia Class A semifinals Friday at the Charleston Civic Center.

I understand his frustration from being around the game since age 5.

The officiating during the game was, at best, terrible.

Charleston Catholic's play, though, was far from it and deserved to win the game.

The Irish shot the ball better than the Blue Dons and played an overall better game than the Blue Dons.

And, Charleston Catholic proved its worth by beating St. Marys to win the state championship.

The Blue Dons were whistled for a foul approximately every 45 seconds in the second half, while the Irish were whistled for a foul every four minutes.

"Maybe it's about time somebody like me sticks up and stands up for my team in the state tournament," Vargo said in the press conference. "Maybe it's about time that somebody questions the responsibility of officiating at state tournament time. This ain't a little Termite game that you call fouls on every little kid so you protect them from getting hurt. Nobody was getting hurt out there. It was a good, solid high school basketball game. And, unfortunately, (the referees) did a bad job officiating tonight."

Charleston Catholic was 26 for 38 from the foul line (22 for 32 in the second half), Madonna 11 for 16 (4 for 6 in the second half).

The people on the Charleston Catholic side look at what Vargo said and say quit whining.

Of course, that is, unless the tide was turned.

If a coach can say his team was terrible, or his coaching was terrible, why can't a coach say the officiating was terrible?

We all know that refs need to blend in with the game and not be a part of it. That didn't happen here.

This is not a Jan. 29 game against a team you beat by 40.

By performance, these are the four best teams in the state tournament semifinals. So, why can't the three guys in stripes with a whistle, by performance, be among the elite in the state?

I am with Vargo on this.

He said what he said and it needed to be said.

What people are missing is the bigger picture - the best high school basketball officials in West Virginia are not in Charleston for the girls or boys state championships.

That, folks, is fact as I found out after talking to numerous coaches, athletic directors, administrators and officials.

And, it is proven year in and year out.

Officials self-nominate as the initial process to get to Charleston.

Self-nomination folks.

I am waiting for a high school basketball coach, already knocked out of the tournament in the regional or sectional level, to stand up at a meeting and say, "I nominate my basketball team to go to Charleston."

That's no different than what's going on now.

There were some really good officials wearing the stripes in Charleston.

I saw them.

I listened to them.


But, unfortunately, not all.

If basketball teams must earn their way to Charleston through the current playoff process, then the officials must also earn their way to Charleston.

That doesn't happen.

Every high school basketball coach in the state must fill out a referee evaluation form after each game and send it into the WVSSAC administration.

Not sure what is done with those evaluation sheets.

But, they should be used to get the best officials in the state to the state tournament.

To throw out a number, let's say an official gets rated 60 times during the season, throw out 10 percent of the scores - the top and bottom three scores - and average the rating.

Take all the officials and line them up, in order, from top to bottom of the best-to-worst ratings and give the games to them if they so desire.

If one official says no, go to the next person in line.

If that means that the same officials are in Charleston for the girls and boys tournaments, so be it.

If officials want to make it to Charleston as their goal, the only way to get there is to get better at the craft

After all, if you have the best eight teams in the state in Charleston through the current playoff process, then you should have the best officials in the state officiating those games.

If teams have earned it, officials must earn it.

That's really not hard to ask, is it?

I don't want to hear about how this is all about the kids if you will not get the best of the best to officiate those kids.

And, that should be done in all sports.

All sports.


It seems to me the merit system in West Virginia for officials is the good ol' boys network.

Whether I am right or not, that is the perception and that perception has to change.

A 29-year-old high school basketball official who is really good has zero chance of making it to Charleston.

A 49-year-old official who is so-so and knows the world and politics really well - he will make it to Charleston far more often than the official who is 20 years younger and far better at the craft.

How is that good?

It would not matter which officiating board the officials are from.

Coaches and players just want the best.

Every high school coach in West Virginia should be in Vargo's corner on this.

You all have felt this way and you all know it.

Most of you have wanted to say this, but have stopped shot.

Vargo didn't.

He said it.

But, it can't stop there.

This cannot just be swept under the rug after Vargo fell on the proverbial sword.

(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at

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